Millennium Space Systems’ FOO Fighter prototype (Millennium Space Systems).

WASHINGTON — The Space Development Agency today announced that Millennium Space Systems will develop all eight planned satellites to provide “fire control” for missile defense under a contract worth up to $414 million — an effort that will carve out a new role for the agency in the Pentagon’s missile defense kill chain.

Under the award, the Boeing-owned company is to provide the satellites for launch “in the first quarter fiscal year 2027” for the SDA program, called FOO Fighter, or F2, for Fire-Control On Orbit-Support-To-The-War Fighter, according to the agency’s press release.

Foo Fighter, for which the agency released its first draft solicitation last July, will be a prototype constellation of satellites carrying electro-optical and infrared cameras to “accelerate the ability to provide new fire control options for the tactical users.”

Fire control sensors are those capable of high-fidelity tracking of targets and providing pinpoint coordinates to warfighters or weapon systems on the ground, in this case missile defense interceptors.

The FOO Fighter prototype satellites are separate from SDA’s planned Tracking Layer constellation for missile warning and tracking in low Earth orbit (LEO), which is being optimized to keep tabs on highly maneuverable hypersonic missiles.

Thus, the program gives SDA a new, more active role in determining missile defense operational concepts, since the power of those sensors has an effect on the requirements of future interceptors operated by the Missile Defense Agency and the military services. That fact has raised some eyebrows on Capitol Hill among members about the program, who fret that it represents an effort by SDA to carve away some of MDA’s traditional mission.

“The FOO Fighter program will provide an operational demonstration of fire control efforts separate from, but complementary to, our missile warning/missile tracking and missile defense efforts already underway in the tranches,” explained Derek Tournear, SDA director, in today’s release.

While details of the effort are largely classified, Tournear last July told the Potomac Officers Club 2023 Air Force Summit that the FOO Fighter birds are being designed to track a “handful” of unspecified threats that “are not being addressed” by the Tracking Layer. He also said that if the demonstration is successful, the sensor technology would be integrated with Tranche 3 and Tranche 4 of the Tracking Layer — satellites that are not slated for launch until, at the earliest, 2028 and 2030 respectively.

In an email to Breaking Defense today, Millennium CEO Jason Kim echoed Tournear, saying that the program is designed to counter “advanced threats.”

“FOO Fighter may be the World War II term for Unidentified Flying Objects, but this is a no kidding, critical mission that will help protect our country and allies against advanced threats,” he said. “And we’re bringing invaluable insights from being at the forefront of fielding the intellectual property and technology that will make the FOO Fighter mission a reality.”

In its initial solicitation for FOO Fighter, SDA said it intended to make awards for the satellites to more than one vendor. That has changed, and Millennium was picked as a sole source provider, an SDA spokesperson confirmed.

“SDA evaluated the proposals that were received in accordance with the evaluation methodology in the solicitation and determined that selecting one vendor provided the best value,” the spokesperson told Breaking Defense today.